Majority of U.S. colleges fails to offer on-campus abortions

Canela Lopez, News Editor Tess Riley

The newfound hardships of adult life are something all college students face. An unplanned pregnancy and the decisions surrounding it is no exception to this experience. Many college students seeking abortion services must find help off campus and outside the school community.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a leading research and policy organization, approximately 42 percent of abortion patients are between the ages of 18 and 24. A survey conducted by the American College Health Association found only 1.3 percent of surveyed colleges or universities offer on-campus abortion services.

*Four abortion providers remain in the state of Louisiana, one in Shreveport, one is Bossier, one in Baton Rouge and one in New Orleans.

“[The lack of abortion facilities] is especially poignant on Tulane and other Louisiana schools’ campuses because of the inaccessibility of abortion in the state and the South in general,” Sophomore Kelsey Williams, president of Students United for Reproductive Justice at Tulane, said. “We are lucky enough that we are located in New Orleans, where there is access to abortion providers fairly nearby, but not many and certainly not enough to meet the demand.”

The closest clinic to Tulane is over a mile and a half from campus, and protesters often conduct anti-abortion demonstrations outside.

“Individuals who are anti-choice will protest at the clinics,” Winter Randall, New Orleans Abortion Fund clinic escort coordinator, said. “These protests take a variety of forms, but most often manifest in verbal, mental and emotional abuse.”

For students considering an abortion alternative such as adoption or who plan to raise a child, Tulane University Right to Life is involved in a variety of events and initiatives to support pregnant students on campus and empower them in their choice not to terminate a pregnancy.

“TURTL hosts many initiatives and events to provide a real choice for pregnant students,” TURTL president Abrania Marerro said. “This includes our current petition to the Tulane Title IX department to take steps in making campus more pregnant and parent friendly; our biannual Women’s Health Resources event, aimed to raise awareness on reproductive health resources in the community that respect life; our weekly tabling sessions that aim, among other things, to reduce the stigma surrounding pregnancy; our community outreach events that serve local women’s resources centers.”

One of the initiatives offered by TURTL is Pregnant on Campus, which connects students to resources such as assistance with food and clothing, off-campus housing options and peer support.

“We want pregnant and parenting students to feel at home on this campus, as they should,” TURTL treasurer Marshall Wadleigh said. “By emphasizing love, respect, and dignity, we help empower these men and women to be the best students and parents that they can be.”

Despite a lack of on-campus abortion services, only 65.8 percent of all institutions surveyed by the ACHA provided referrals for off-campus abortions. These services can range from a surgical abortion, a process where a doctor removes the fetus from the uterus, to a medical abortion, which requires the patient to take two pills.

A medical abortion requires the pills mifepristone and misoprostol and is considered safe by the Federal Drug Administration. According to a study by Princeton University, less than one percent of patients experience severe side effects or a failed abortion.

This year, the FDA lowered the recommended dosage used in medical abortions and extended usage to ten weeks into pregnancy, as opposed to the previous constraint of seven weeks. The FDA also allows for nurse practitioners to administer this medication, making treatment more accessible.

For college students, however, off-campus abortion services are costly. In Louisiana, the cost of the abortion must be paid by the individual. The Hyde Amendment ensures that no federal funds are used to pay for abortion, except in the case of rape and incest.

“Louisiana law also prohibits private insurance policies from covering abortion,” Randall said. “So even if a private policy offers abortion coverage, it is prohibited in the state.”

Randall’s organization, the New Orleans Abortion Fund, attempts to mitigate these costs by providing financial assistance to women seeking abortions.

Tulane provides aftercare services for students who have had abortions or those considering one. These services include therapy and support through Counseling and Psychological Services.

“CAPS therapists are certainly available to support students with abortion experiences,” Director of CAPS Donna Bender said.

Bender said CAPS also offers urgent walk-in sessions and can refer students to therapists within the community.

According to its website, Tulane Student Health Center provides pregnancy testing and pregnancy options counseling in its Women’s Health Clinic. It also provides birth control, birth control management and emergency contraception.

Some students, like Williams, said they believe that while aftercare services are vital, changing campus climate is crucial.

“I think the first step is to open up the discussion on campus about what struggles women and men are facing with their reproductive health care,” Williams said. “That is hard to do and takes a lot of strength and solidarity from the student body, especially for the people that initially speak up, but it needs to happen because [the] fear of and experience with unintended pregnancy is something many college students face.”

*Correction: an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that there were only two abortion clinics still operating in Louisiana. There are four.